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Memoir
of one of first woman settlers

Written circa 1887

On the 23rd of March 1864, Evin Hoops; Mary, his wife; and two children, Carrie, aged 3 years, and Nettie, aged 7 months, started westward from northern Indiana to establish ourselves and make a home in the new and recently explored state of Kansas.

We traveled by rail to Atchison and took stage passage from there to Council Grove. The trip was made in about two days — riding 60 miles per day.

The stage was a miserable affair, with the curtains in ribbons and flapping in and out with the wind, which we had to face the entire distance. You all know what our March winds are like in Kansas.

We arrived in Council Grove on the evening of the second day out — cold, stiff and hungry. It was the first station we stopped at this side of Atchison.

I was so cold and numb from sitting and riding in a cramped position keeping my arms around my baby, I had to go into the station on my hands and knees. The station was on the high divide, and I was not used to the Kansas winds.

There was one other passenger who kindly took the baby, and Evin took care of Carrie. The driver did all he could do to hold the horses and keep the stage from blowing over.

After spending the night in Council Grove, we hired a team to take us on to Marion, 45 miles southwest of Council Grove.

This was a warmer day, and we arrived at my brother George [Griffith]’s at seven in the evening, and I found my dear mother there.

We had a happy reunion and talked until a late hour before their old-fashioned fireplace, which brother George never forgot to replenish when present.

Only 7 cabins in Marion

When we came to Marion, seven little log cabins made up the entire number in this neighborhood: First on Mud Creek, now called Luta. Next John Snow’s. Next A.A. Moore’s. Next William Shreve’s.

Southwest of brother George’s cabin was William Billing’s cabin on the Cottonwood River.

The Riggs and Snow cabins had puncheon floors and dirt roofs. Moore, Miller, and Griffith had shake roofs. Shreve, Griffith and Billing’s had stone floors.

Evin and I walked down to our claim in a few days after our arrival, one mile south of Marion.

I looked and looked at the bare prairie and the distant bluffs and thought of our empty pocketbook and wondered how on earth we were to make a living without money, team and nothing to keep house with — not even enough money to get our goods from the Missouri River.

I sat down on the ground to rest and to try to think how we could even commence to improve and how to make a home.

After we went back to George’s, George said, “Well, Mollie, how do you like your new future home?”

“Well, as far as the natural location is concerned, I like it very much, but how are we to make a start?”

“Well, you can all stay here until your cabin is fit to move into, and I will only charge you $5 per week for you all.”

Of course that was less than he could afford to board us for, as they said Evin must exchange work with the other settlers and help get in a spring crop and help get his plowing done.

So, there seemed a way for our present food.

After exchanging work with George and the other neighbors, we got in 3¼ acres of corn on our land.

After homesteading our land, which cost $15 and $5 more for incidental expenses, getting over to Junction City and back, we had no money, and our goods were at Atchison. So, we had to borrow the money off of a neighbor to pay the freight on the goods.

When we shipped our goods, we shipped at the same time two boxes for my sister, Margaret Roberts.

She and Henry, her son, had a good ox team, so Evin and Henry started the 18th of June after our goods. It took them until the 4th of July to get back, traveling every day, early and late.

We shipped our bedding and clothing to Atchison, but that was as far as the boxes could come, as at that time there was not a foot of railroad in the state.

We were 50 miles from a good mill, which was at Emporia. It was 35 miles to a physician. The nearest point to obtain any groceries was at Moore’s ranch on the Santa Fe Trail, 18 miles away northwest of Marion.

At that time, all groceries were high. Our flour averaged $10 per hundredweight, corn meal $5 per hundred, coffee 60 cents per pound, old rusty bacon 49 cents per pound, lard 45 cents, calico 50 cents per yard, common delane 75 cents.

[In 1865, $1 was worth the equivalent of $37.67 in 2023. A single pound of coffee cost the equivalent of $22.60.]

You may rest assured I bought none at that price as we were here three years before I bought a new dress.

You may know this — that the dresses I had brought with me were made over wrong side out, upside down, and then to have a new one I made them over right side out with care.

The first dress I bought was of A.A. Moore, black and white calico with pretty star-shaped figure. And, oh, did I step gaily with a new dress on. But this time calico was down to 18 cents per yard.

You may wonder what we did for shoes. I had two good pair of shoes, and a good pair of overshoes when we came, and by going bare-footed in the house in the summer and wearing moccasins out-of-doors, I made my shoes last me three years.

My children’s first shoes after we came I made out of cloth and used the lining out of an old bootleg for soles.

Corn meal and codfish gravy

I must tell you what our larder consisted of. We had about 40 pounds of corn meal, a piece of codfish about as large as my hand.

I had packed among my goods a small jar of apple butter, about a half gallon, and I traded a fancy black apron with pale blue braiding to my sister Margaret for two pounds of butter.

That is everything we had. Did not have any flour to thicken the codfish gravy.

Of course, I only used a tiny piece, just enough to take the flat taste off. I told my sister, and she divided her flour with me, which was about a quart.

Oh, but wasn’t I proud of the flour! Now the gravy would taste like gravy and not moukish gruel.

Bought captives from Indians

The first of October 1865, the government made a treaty with the Kiowas at Wichita. A company of soldiers passed through here under the command of Gen. Sanborn and Gen. Harney, with ever so many Santa Fe wagons heavily loaded with all kinds of supplies, such as cheap gaudy calico, denims, shawls, jeans, thread, needles, coffee, sugar, flour, etc.

We settlers all felt it to be very unjust. We were induced to take lands and settle the country, but were offered no protection or supplies. At this treaty, they bought four captives, paying at the rate of $700 each for them.

The Indians were impudent and sassy — the Chief riding government mules and horses branded U.S. with a great deal of apparent pride.

Our soldiers did not dare say a word to them as the Indians out-numbered them three to one and they were on their own ground.

The government had sent for Kit Carson to meet the soldiers at Wichita to act as in interpreter. His home was at Las Vegas, New Mexico. They were four days making the treaty.

On their return through our settlement, they stopped at my sister’s and camped. I was with my sister, helping her, when the soldiers returned with their captives.

One was a woman about 30 years of age, her baby about 17 months old, and two other children about 4 and 6 years of age.

We got dinner for all the officers and prisoners and baked pumpkin pie for all. The prisoners were liberated the day before we saw them.

After dinner, I had a chance to talk with them. The mother said she had been taken from the border of Texas in this way:

Indians swooped down on them unexpectedly. Her husband was at the house with a young lady visitor. The husband grabbed his rifle and said he would sell his life dearly as he was sure to be killed, as Indians seldom took a man captive.

The girl said she would fight until she died rather than be taken prisoner.

They were soon overpowered, and this mother waved a white cloth and offered no resistance, so they did not molest her.

They shot the husband and speared him several times in different places and then scalped him. Others killed the young girl. Then they took everything they wanted and bound the mother and child.

They dragged the husband out-of-doors; when they took her out to put her on a pony, her husband could speak yet and as we all know a wounded man is always thirsty, he asked her to get him a drink of water. She tried to wrench herself away but could not.

I said to her, “Oh, I would have died.”

She said, “My dear young woman, you will live to see that day that you cannot die when you want to.”

I have thought of that expression a hundred times.

During all the time that she was with the Indians, she never had her baby in her arms. They were with them seven months. The Indians would not let her have her baby night or day.

It was ten months old when they were taken and not weaned. The only food they gave it was raw buffalo meat. When it cried, they would plunge it into the creek again and again until it could cry no more. It never had any clothing on it.

After they captured it, they made it sit out in the sun until it was blistered again and again. Its red face and shoulders were all in sores and scabs when I saw it.

The only clothing the mother had was a blanket. The Indians made her make shirts for the Indian men and do the wood cutting and carrying the wood, all she could possibly do and stand up under.

The soldiers took her and her children to Council Grove Mission, where she was kept.

Four weeks from the time I saw her she became a mother to another child. I have thought of her so often and never heard what became of her.

Talks with Kit Carson

I must describe Kit Carson and how he looked. He was a man of medium height, straight-lined, heavy shoulders, straight back, head well set, light brown hair, clear gray eyes, high forehead, wore his hair rather long, had regular features.

The main, striking thing about him lay in the expression of his eyes. They seemed clear, intent and far away.

It was his habit, I noticed, in going to the door to first scan the horizon with a lightning sweeping glance, then look at every object with intentness that seemed to pierce it and beyond.

The lieutenant told me it was his habit when even out on the prairie.

I had quite a conversation with him. He was a man that was very modest in regard to himself I could not get him to describe any of his wonderful exploits — only among his old friends, soothe soldiers said.

I asked him what he thought our chances were to make ourselves homes and eventually to start a town and have success with it. At the time, I was 25 years old.

He looks at me with a rather pitying expression at first, then answered more hopefully.

“Well, it seems that nature has done everything for your country that can be done, or that you could reasonably expect, and there is only one drawback that I can think of or see, and that you may never experience. That is Indian trouble. If the Indians ever want to raid your settlement, there is nothing to hinder them from cleaning you out in an hour. But if they never do, you will be all right.”

You may be sure I pondered that “if,” and I cannot tell by what law of nature we were impelled to stay. But for a long time that poor captive’s story haunted me night and day.

As soon as we had hard frosts enough to dry up the grass and our whole southwestern country was burned off by prairie fires, we would feel quite safe during the winter months as Indians cannot raid very far from their own grounds on account of forage for their horses.

Dr. Rogers arrives

The second winter passed quite uneventfully. We all cheered each other up and looked forward to better things.

This fall, Dr. Rogers came to the settlement, so we felt very much encouraged for our sick.

The next spring, 1868, Mr. A.A. Moore and Levi Billings went into partnership to start a townsite and build a store building and start a general store.

They first wanted to locate it on our mound, which was a half mile west from our cabin and on the south side of the Cottonwood River. But Mr. Gibson and Evin objected.

They were not going to have the town boys eat their apples. The fun of it is that there are no apples either place yet.

Well, they parlayed where they could start the town. Finally, Mr. Moore said to put it on his northwest corner and when the folks decide on a good location we will build on it, and I use this building for a granary.

That is why Marion was started in the valley and in that nook. So the foundation was laid.

In the meantime, Levi had torn down their little log cabin on the Cottonwood four miles below and hauled the logs up to Marion, put it up again on what is known as the west hills.

Levi and George were raising the logs themselves one day and when they were about to put up the last log, Levi said, “Now, Uncle George, if we only had another man to help us with this last log we would be all right.”

Just then I came on the scene, on my way down to Mr. Moore’s. I heard the remark and, said I, “Well, here’s your man.”

They both laughed and said, “All right, take hold” and sure enough we got it up.

Brother George said, “Now, Mollie, you have helped to put up the first house in Marion.”

It was only one story to be finished with dirt floor. They lived in it and boarded the men that put up the walls of the stone store.

The store is two stories. They lived upstairs with the store below. We all felt very proud when we could go to the store and not have to send so far away for things needed.

County is organized

This winter, our county was organized. Evin was the first elected sheriff. He had to go as far as Fort Logan to collect tax. Our taxable property in the county at that time did not exceed $500.

The next spring we had about 10 acres to put into corn and four more acres plowed. In July, by dint of hard labor and very good economy, we got enough together to buy us a cook stove.

We had a very good fireplace to cook by, but I want to say that is the hardest work I have ever done.

Evin and John Miller (Aunt Katie Brumbugh’s son-in-law) went to Topeka with John’s team to buy each of us a stove.

John bought the first one and Evin the only remaining stove in Topeka. At that time, Topeka was only a struggling little village.

He paid $42.50 for a No. 8 four-hole stove. But, oh, I was never so glad to anything in my life. I told the neighbors to all come, as I was not going to stop cooking as long as there was anything in the house to cook.

In honor of Old Settlers Day, we reprint this memoir, originally published in the Record in 1925, about the settling of Marion, written circa 1887 by Mary Griffith Hoops.

She and her husband, whom she married on Feb. 2, 1860, in Elkhart, Indiana, were among the first to build a homes in the community.

She was 22 when they left Indiana and joined her brothers and their families on the frontier.

She had some educational advantages and had dreamed of becoming a doctor. She was an avid reader of medical texts and brought a large volume with her to Marion.

Her family was related to other Marion settlers by marriage. Her eldest daughter, Carrie, married another Marion founder, Levi Billings, in 1876 after Billings’wife and two of four children died in an epidemic.

Mary and Evin Hoops eventually left Marion and moved to Ventura County, California, in the 1880s. She died in Escondido in 1898.

Last modified Sept. 27, 2023

 

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